I knew I would be getting a phone call from my friend Arnold about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“Not another one,” he said, knowing that I knew what he was referring to.
“So tell me what you’re thinking, my friend,” I said.
“I’m thinking the National Rifle Association is the most evil organization in the world. To think they’re buying the influence – no, the silence – of our political leaders just makes me sick. You know, I had to laugh at the dark humor of one of those students, who said after the tragedy that we should start calling the AK-15 rifle a “Marco Rubio” because it can be so easily bought.”
“I heard that too,” I said, “and I thought the remarks of most of the student leaders were pretty articulate and delivered calmly and maturely for their age.”
“Yeah,” Arnold replied, “one of them said that if the real problem is mental health, we’re the only country in the Western world with that problem.”
“So what’s the solution,” I asked.
“I have to give the Florida government credit for trying to raise the eligibility for gun purchase to 21 and require a three-day waiting period, but already the NRA is taking Florida to court to prohibit the adoption of such a law.”
“Do you think the rest of the country would consider such a law?” I asked.
“I wish it would,” said Arnold, “but I wouldn’t bet on it.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because, we’ll be told, there are too many people who are under 21 who like to hunt. And I’ve been thinking about that. They would say it’s their right to have guns so that they can hunt – animals, you know,” he said, with a little sarcastic cynicism in his voice. “They claim the Second Amendment to the US Constitution gives them to right to hunt.”
“Well, doesn’t it?”
“The way I read it, it doesn’t say anything about hunting.”
“What does it say?”
“OK – I have it right here. The Second Amendment simply says: `A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’”
“So what do you make of that?” I asked.
“To me it says clearly that the right of the people to keep and bear arms is for the security of a free state. First of all, that was written when we didn’t have a regular military, like we do now, you know Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, strong police forces, etc. And second, it says nothing about the right of the people to bear arms for the purpose of hunting animals. So where do people get off saying they have the right to have a gun because they like to hunt, much less to have an AK-15, which isn’t a weapon made to hunt animals but to kill people.”
“So what are you going to do, Arnold, change the Second Amendment?”
“That’s my point, Richard. It doesn’t need changing. If you’re a strict constructionist of the Constitution – like Conservatives are supposed to be – then it doesn’t give us the right to have a gun to hunt.”
“Do you think you’ll get anywhere trying to shut down hunting as a sport?” I asked.
“OK. But you can regulate it. Like in Europe, if you want to hunt, you have to join a hunt club, get licensed anyway, and demonstrate safe storage of the gun you buy, either at the club or at your home. If you store it at home, you have to agree to unannounced inspections by the authorities to see if your guns are being kept safely. I think it’s an abomination that the United States has no requirement regarding the safe storage of firearms.”
“Sounds like you’ve really looked into this, Arnold.” I said.
“Well, aren’t you worried that there are 317 million people in the US and 357 million guns on the loose in this country?”
“357 million – and counting. We have 40 million more guns than people. Doesn’t that bother you?
“Yes, it does. But pretty big job trying to take all those guns away, isn’t it?”
“I saved a clipping from the 2015 Economist. Want me to read it to you?
“Sure, go ahead.”
“`Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard [mass shootings] the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing.’”
“So how does that leave you?”
“Depressed – depressed about how crazy this country has become.”
“So I guess you don’t want to see teachers armed in the classroom, either.”
“If the NRA has its way, everyone in the classroom will have a gun, sooner or later students too. The idea is that we all need to protect ourselves from each other. That’ll really make America great again, won’t it?”
“Don’t know what to say, Arnold,” I replied.
“Well, you’d better wear a flak jacket under all your vestments on Sunday.”
“Will you come to church to see?”
“I’m too scared to come to church now.”